RSS to focus on confidence building of cadre in West Bengal

With the BJP’s defeat in West Bengal and the ensuing violence in the state, the party’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is set to focus on building organisational strength, restoring confidence of cadre and protecting its workers from attacks.

On Wednesday, RSS officials from West Bengal addressed a small group of reporters, highlighting reports of post-poll violence in the state and said it has shaken people’s belief in the local administration. “We want to raise this issue to the world. There is targeting of our workers because they worked on ideological lines,” a senior RSS functionary told ET, citing how the Sangh workers have faced such problems in states such as Kerala, and that it was only backlash that brought the violence under control. “They are doing this to send a message to society. This is against our constitutional freedoms and we want more and more people to talk about this,” the official said.

There was violence in many parts of the state after the results were declared. The BJP alleged that 24 of its workers died. The TMC, however, put the number at 14, claiming that four of its own workers died too.

A senior RSS official said the organisation was thoroughly backing the BJP for the first time in West Bengal in many years because the party was hoping for change, socially particularly, mainly to attack the TMC’s alleged bias towards Muslims. However, while the BJP managed to get 32 of the 64 seats reserved for SC communities, with the Matuas and Rajbanshis voting for it, it failed to hold on to many seats with predominant ST population that it had won in 2019.

“Our analysis showed that many Dalit communities voted for us even in South Bengal and we will protect them,” another RSS functionary said.

West Bengal has been the priority of the RSS for many years. In 2015, the RSS, at its annual body meeting, had brought out a resolution drawing attention to an alleged spike in Muslim population in the state. Its former general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi particularly worked to build schools and RSS offices on highways connecting the cities and villages, and gave a push to Hindu outfits such as the Hindu Jagran Manch. Last year, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat visited the state in December, a little ahead the BJP welcoming defectors from the TMC, and also played an important role in getting actor Mithun Chakraborty within the party’s fold to increase its acceptability among the Bengalis.

“We felt that our booth workers failed to get people to vote… There were many things that went wrong at the organisational level, particularly in understanding the sentiment of the people,” said one RSS worker.

Another worker said that apart from defections from TMC, the selection of candidates in many places had also upset the party’s own workers. “At this point, however, we feel we need to build an understanding among all sections of the Sangh Parivar and we all need to work together,” he said.

The TMC, however, said the Sangh Parivar’s efforts are particularly wasteful with the BJP not even being able to cross the 100 mark in seats. “The FIRs of post-poll violence have hardly a few Muslim names. The Sangh Parivar wants to make it Hindu versus Muslim, when it is clearly a fight between party workers. Those incidents have also stopped now as the administration has imposed strict vigilance,” said Debashish Sarkar, a TMC functionary in Baruipur.

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